Beginning a New PD Adventure

This year, in response to feedback we had received from grade 7-12 math teachers that they would be interested in after-school professional development opportunities, we launched our Mathtastic PD series

Our Mathtastic homepage

Our goal was to offer quality professional development to teachers on a voluntary basis, on topics chosen by our math teachers. A quick poll of educators at the beginning of the year gave us an idea of the top five most-wanted PD topics:

1) Digital tools for teaching math
2) Coding in math
3) Triangulating assessment; Addressing needs of students with LD in learning math (tie)
4) Creating visuals to support learning mathematics
5) Spiralling math curriculum

While our initial goal was to have one session per month throughout the second semester, due to changes in schedules we were only able to have three afternoon sessions between February and the end of May

The three workshops we were able to offer this year were:

Reaching Inward and Outward

Our board is fairly large geographically, with many of our schools centred in Sudbury, but with several outlying schools as far away as Shining Tree, Manitoulin Island, and Monetville. So it was important to us to design PD that was both effective face-to-face, as well as remotely. 

The model upon which we decided to base our sessions was one we had seen earlier in the year with a Renewed Math Strategy virtual session on fractions. We used Google Sites and Google Hangouts as a platform to address a group as a whole, allow independent exploration of tools and resources, and bring everyone together for reflection pieces throughout the session. 

Facilitating the remote connection with Espanola & Sault Ste. Marie at a Mathtastic session.

While we did not have a huge turnout for the sessions (a total of 27 teachers registered for the various workshops), we were joined by educators from Sudbury Catholic DSB (one of our co-terminus boards), as well as a colleague from the Algoma District School Board, based in Sault Ste. Marie. 

Exploring and Reflecting

For the most part, we have tried keeping the facilitator talking to a minimum, with emphasis on educators being able to explore the tools on offer. Recognizing that different people learn at different rates (and from different starting points!), background information on each tool is covered in the Google Site, and tasks laid out from beginner to advanced.

Example of an exploratory task during the Supporting Working Memory session

After being given time to explore a tool at their own pace, participants were asked to turn their attention to a reflection task. This was sometimes a prompt in a collaborative Google Doc, sometimes a Padlet board, or a question on Flipgrid. Each of these reflections was directly embedded into the online content.

Reflections on types of checklists one could use for tracking conversations & observations in class

The benefit to doing all this in Google Sites is that not only can we provide teachers who attend remotely equal access to all the content as our face-to-face participants, but we can also automatically create an archive of all material right there in the site for future reference. The teachers' reflections, too, become part of the content, to help guide future users of the site.

Maximizing Value

When designing professional development opportunities, I am keenly aware that teachers are busy, busy people. I want to make sure that those who attend will find the time spent in the session valuable, and as often as I can, I want to be able to give educators something they can take away and use as soon as the next day in their classes. 

One of our struggles with Mathtastic has been biting off just the right amount of PD. It’s tough to find a balance between offering a lot of tools on a given topic, which has the potential for high value/lots of take-away, with a time limit of just one hour to be able to offer manageable amount of professional development on a weeknight. 

As a result, we find we're overloading the time a bit. Our topics due to be covered later in the hour often get glossed over, or we don't take the time to properly reflect on our learning.

How can we best engage in good, rich conversation that includes all the voices in the room (virtual and face-to-face), all while giving participants enough time to play and explore, with guidance when needed (all within the space of an hour)? Something to look at as we move forward.

Next Steps

As we look toward the fall, I’m wondering how we can use our main Mathtastic Google Site as a go-to resource for intermediate and senior math teachers within our board (and beyond). 

At the moment, it is a repository of past sessions that I hope don't just fall to the wayside as educators move forward in their practice. Perhaps we can look at re-offering some of the initial sessions in the future, to meet the needs of different educators who weren't ready/interested in those topics at the time. 

There's been a great discussion on Twitter this weekend around what effectively curating and delivering online PD might look like. Come September, we'll be looking to add to the site, and continue to offer topics of high interest. How we best organize new content, though, remains to be seen.

Here's to new learning!


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